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Massachusetts Transgender Equality Rights Act Takes Effect

This week, the Transgender Rights Equality Act takes effect in Massachusetts. Transgender citizens in Massachusetts are receiving protections against housing, education, and employment discrimination. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

This week, Massachusetts joins 15 other states in enacting legislation to protect the rights of transgendered citizens. Under the law, which was signed in November by Governor Deval Patrick, transgendered people will receive equal protection in finding employment, housing, obtaining education, and credit. The law also expands the state’s hate crimes laws to protect individuals often targeted for their gender identity.  

Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, says that statistics show that transgendered people have faced particularly high unemployment rates, and is happy to see the law address employee discrimination.

Kara Suffrendini, executive director of MassEquality, says that the act is the first time that transgendered persons are mentioned in any Massachusetts law.

  Suffrendini said that MassEquality was involved in advocating the passage of the law for the past several years. She says that although the law provides numerous proctections, it doesn’t provide language of public accommodations.

Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU says Opponents of the law have often focused in on complications that could arise around providing appropriate restroom facilities.

Wolfe said that the final version of the bill was changed from the original version and cut out the public accommodations language – which would provide protections against discrimination in public transportation, grocery stores, and restuarants. He said his group has allied with lawmakers to push for further revision.

The state estimates that 33,000 Massachusetts residents will benefit from the new protections under the legislation.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.